Layering: Beyond the Box Thinking

Established in 2022, Layer is an innovative startup situated in the Bay Area. The company is known for offering businesses with highly customisable and user-friendly user interface (UI) toolkits, setting the standard in its field.

Unlike many of its competitors, Layer does not limit itself to recruiting top-notch software engineers from the local area, as it has a wide-reaching network of skilled software engineers based across Asia, Europe, and the United States.

Layer has been implementing a remote working approach since its inception, as the company recognised the benefits of having a diverse workforce and to keep up with the intense competition in its domestic market. The company’s Vice President of Engineering, Kevin Schraith, has played a pivotal role in the success of this strategy. With his previous experience managing remote workers while stationed in Paris at Salesforce, he possesses a strong understanding of cultural awareness and streamlined remote work processes.

Schraith notes that some of his colleagues initially expressed hesitancy towards hiring remote talent, as there may be misconceptions that it equates to outsourcing or that it could be an intimidating prospect. Nevertheless, with a positive and discerning approach, there is potential for the company to benefit from broadening its search for talent beyond the local area.

Schraith’s approach centres around these three key principles:

  1. Focus on selecting candidates who are both skilled and fit well with the company culture.

    Schraith stresses the importance of team dedication in achieving success while working remotely. To fully embrace dispersed work practices, Layer must implement strategies to integrate new members, especially those who work from home, into the overall company culture.

    Cultural compatibility is a key factor for project success, according to experts. Without it, individuals may have negative experiences with remote work, as they tend to choose solely based on technical qualifications without considering cultural fit. As a result, engineers hired based purely on their skills may only be motivated by financial gains, rather than producing a quality product.

    Schraith acknowledges that accurately assessing a distributed candidate’s cultural compatibility can be challenging, but it becomes evident when the developer is a perfect match. For instance, he mentioned how Wale’s participation in the team’s weekly ‘Hawaiian shirt day’ demonstrated his eagerness to engage with the rest of the team and commitment to team spirit, reflecting his dedication to being a part of the team.

    By prioritising cultural fit, Layer fosters a supportive and cohesive team culture. This is demonstrated in the appreciation shown by the engineers towards Wale and the positive impact it had on team morale. Through small but significant actions like this, employees demonstrate their commitment to the firm, resulting in a better final outcome.
  2. Integrate new team members as if they were already part of the team.

    Locating a developer who is a good fit for the company culture is just the first step towards creating a powerful distributed team, according to Schraith. During the onboarding process, it is crucial to establish clear expectations, make a good first impression, and get to know each other in order to ensure a successful integration of new team members.

    Schraith’s approach to onboarding is akin to Works’ philosophy, where partners gain access to the entire support team and developers have an initial in-person meeting at the headquarters. He commends Works’ onboarding process, noting that face-to-face meetings at the beginning of a job are incredibly valuable. If an in-person meeting is not feasible, significant time spent getting to know each other on a personal level through virtual means can help establish a strong working relationship, which is crucial to heightened motivation.
  3. Emphasise communication in building a successful remote team.

    According to Schraith, a remote workforce can only succeed if its members establish and maintain strong communication practices.

    Inefficient communication can hinder both remote and traditional workforces. Schraith advises that managers should communicate more frequently and deliberately to compensate for the perceived lack of communication in remote teams. Young developers may be hesitant to admit when they require further clarification and guidance, particularly if they are working remotely, so managers should facilitate open communication to address any issues.

    Through a variety of text messages and follow-up communication, remote teams can establish effective communication channels. However, it is crucial to use appropriate channels such as asynchronous messaging for successful communication that is perceived as helpful and not overwhelming.

    Schraith emphasises the importance of maintaining open communication channels in remote and dispersed teams, as it keeps employees productive and connected. The simplicity of modern technology provides the necessary resources and infrastructure to eliminate any excuses for inadequate communication.

    By prioritising communication, businesses can better position themselves for a future of remote work. In Schraith’s view, successful remote work boils down to excellent alignment and ensuring that outsourced developers share the company’s values and objectives.

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